Yearning for a 'normal' life: A 32-year-old recovered Covid-19 patient's story

Cindy Chian, a recovered Covid-19 patient who yearns for her 'normal' life, is stuck in a limbo.
PHOTO: Cindy Chian

Covid-19 was just something Cindy Chian had heard of on the news, and from friends of friends.

Never did this 32-year-old Singaporean think that she would test positive one day.

And Chian wasn't alone — more than half of her household of 11 people tested positive too.

Uncertainties — what to do, where to go and who to inform — loomed the day she got her test results at National University Hospital (NUH). Two days later, on Sept 17, she was admitted to a community care facility at Mount Alvernia Hospital (MAH) and stayed for six days

Till today, the recovered Covid-19 patient is still uncertain on how to return to 'normal' life.

Prior to getting infected, Chian was a typical active millennial who went for spin sessions twice a week, enjoyed the occasional Barry's Bootcamp HIIT classes, and met a close group of friends on the regular outside of her work in audit.

'No one knows when it will be cleared'

A screenshot of Chian's TraceTogether app. PHOTO: Cindy Chian

Four days after she was discharged from hospital, she texted her friends: "Will you all be afraid to meet me next week?

"I won't be mad even if you say yes."

Deep down she was scared too, Chian told AsiaOne. Under the test status on her TraceTogether app, it still states that she is "not cleared".

"It's very stressful because I'm also worried that I'm a risk to people around me. I need to do a lot of research to make sure I'm really safe to go out."

"For those of us who are recovered, it (the test status) will still show as 'not cleared'," Chian said.

She added that she's still considered Covid-19 positive, just not infectious anymore with her last test showing a CT (cycle threshold) value of 29.

With a high CT value of near 30, it suggests that the infection is not recent and highly likely to be past the period when someone is infectious.

"No one knows when it will be cleared," she said.

It's a question that even the over 12,000-member Telegram group, SG Quarantine Order Support Group, can't answer either.

Nevertheless, Chian said that she participates in the support group's conversation regularly hoping she can share her experiences with those with uncertainties.

How long before a negative test result?

"When I first contracted Covid-19, I was really clueless. I called MOH (Ministry of Health) but no one answered. No one in my family knew what to do.

"The support group is really an avenue where people can at least get some help," shared Chian, who became the guardian of her 16-year-old nephew who also tested positive for Covid-19 the same time as her.

Chian and her nephew shared a room at NUH. PHOTO: Cindy Chian

While this nephew has returned to school with a doctor's Covid-19 screening memo that he got after being discharged, her other younger nephew is still stuck at home.

The 13-year-old schoolboy, who was placed on home recovery after testing positive on Sept 17, has been "rejected" from going back to school despite feeling well on day 10.

"His school had requested for a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test before he could return.

"But the issue is he will be positive till god knows when. Even those in the Telegram group don't know how long it would take for a test result to be negative," Chian said.

Based on the Covid-19 screening memo that Chian showed AsiaOne, recovered Covid-19 patients are "exempted from asymptomatic screening of Covid-19, including ARTs (antigen rapid tests), PETs (pre-event tests), and PCR tests, for 270 days from the beginning of their infection".

The Covid-19 screening memo from NUH's Senior Consultant Infectious Disease Physician. PHOTO: Cindy Chian

"We've requested for it (Covid-19 screening memo) from MOH for my younger nephew but we've yet to receive a response," Chian said.

According to MOH's FAQ on home recovery: "No discharge memo is needed. If you are feeling well, you are discharged on day 10 of illness. There is no need for further PCR tests as vaccinated individuals are extremely unlikely to be infectious by this time."

AsiaOne has contacted MOH for comments.

Staying cautious

Even with a Covid-19 screening memo and a test showing that she is no longer infectious, Chian remains cautious while going about her everyday activities.

She stayed home for another four days after being discharged from MAH before heading out once to run some errands — alone.

So far, Chian has faced no issues about her test status on the TraceTogether app at restaurants or workout studios except for an email from Barry's Bootcamp, when she checked her eligibility for their workout classes.

They replied: "Would you be able to provide us with a document stating that you have been cleared and discharged, and deemed to have fully recovered so we can advise further from there?"

Chian told us that she would try using her screening memo if she was going to a fitness class, but she understands that "some people from the Telegram group have been turned down by some restaurants after showing their uncleared test statuses".

Chian — like many of the over 12,180 members in SG Quarantine Order Support Group — yearns for a "normal" life back: "I'm not trying to be difficult to MOH, but I just need answers."

lynette@asiaone.com